IoT has great promise in letting businesses improve their sustainability strategy – how they use energy, where they buy it and how they source it throughout the day. Lynda Clemmons, Vice President, NRG Sustainable Energy Advisory, with an exclusive interview with Energy CIO Insights for a special edition of Digital oil field explains that, " IoT and the data generated can help businesses understand more about sourcing energy". Lynda is working to create a cleaner energy future through technology, renewable, and efficiency, both within the organization and with clients.
What do you think should be the central theme of the profile? What is it that you’d like to convey to our readers?
The energy industry is going through radical transformation and technology is evolving, allowing for smarter, more controllable demand at the hands of the consumer. NRG, as a customer-focused organization, helps provide deeper insights and ultimately a truly customizable energy solution. As an example, through our own current digital transformation, we leverage customer usage insights to develop and refine our offerings even further, allowing us to provide recommendations proactively rather than waiting for the customer to come to us. We understand with the onset of technology comes data, with much information out there to decipher – that can be overwhelming at times. This is where we enter. So as new energy technologies grow even more complex, we will work to simplify things and make ourselves useful to our customers.
In light of your experience what are the technological trends and challenges you’ve witnessed in the Smart Energy space?
Consumers will not accept an average customer experience, especially for something as important as electricity. As a forward-thinking energy company, we want to bring exemplary interaction to customers at every stage in our lifecycle. Our customers expect simplicity, easy-to-understand experiences and superior service. And as part of our digital transformation, we developed customized digital toolsets that give customers actionable insights about their energy usage and behaviors, along with making previously complicated account transactions simple. We want our consumers to know they’re getting good value and prove we’re a partner for the long haul.
Could you talk about your approach to identify the right partnership/solutions provider from the lot? What is your approach on evaluating potential partnerships from an environmental impact perspective?
We’re technology-agnostic, and when we develop a solution for a commercial and industrial customer, we evaluate and address their specific needs. However, that does not mean we always engineer a solution in house. In many ways, partnerships with other providers are the way of the future – that’s where we see a major energy industry shift coming.
"We understand with the onset of technology comes data, with much information out there to decipher—that can be overwhelming at times"
As one prominent example of how IoT-like remote capabilities fit this approach, we have a partnership with Cummins to deploy asset-backed demand response programs around on-site, natural gas-fired backup generators, combining our joint expertise for a powerful energy platform. From NRG’s Network Operations Center, we send signals to businesses that participate in this program to activate those generators to power their operations, and credit them so that lowers their power bill. We also leverage the platform for maintenance purposes, as well as using the data to determine what additional energy assets, applications and services can be layered in to benefit the customer’s operation.
Furthermore, IoT has great promise in letting businesses improve their sustainability strategy – how they use energy, where they buy it and how they source it throughout the day. This lets businesses go green easier, at the cutting edge of what consumers demand. And, IoT and the data generated can help businesses understand more about sourcing energy. A facility manager can see this data and consider their operational options and impacts. But, they still need someone to help interpret that data and take action on it. With our wide range of expertise the customer gets multiple insights, rather than needing to hire an army of subject matter experts of their own to determine energy strategy.
Could you elaborate on some interesting project/ initiatives that you’re currently overseeing?
We’re constantly focused on making things simple, eliminating complexity. It shouldn’t be complicated for companies that want both sustainable energy and a good commodity price. We might provide the customer a roadmap on how to develop and source renewable energy, and then wrap that renewable contract with a retail contract to make it easier for the customer, so they don’t have to worry about managing power from an offsite solar facility as well as their retail contract. Our integration and intelligence, across generation and retail, takes the guesswork out the equation.
Can you draw an analogy between your personality traits, hobbies and reflect on your leadership strategy?
I enjoy snowboarding, gardening and pilates. What does that say about me? Snowboarding indicates I’m a risk taker, to a certain extent, when it’s just me who is impacted. Pilates requires focus and a desire to build strength in all areas, not just those that come easily. And gardening is probably the most directly correlated to my leadership style – I find the best examples of what the family wants and needs and plant those seeds. I’ll care for my garden if it needs tending, but also realize I can’t produce it all on my own. Each plant needs to take root, grow and produce, I simply offer an environment to accomplish that more easily.
What would be a piece of advice that you could impart to a C-Level executive who looks to embark on a similar venture along the lines of your service and solutions?
Don’t underestimate the large impact that minor changes in your energy strategy can have on your bottom line. Also, while renewable energy solutions play an important role in sustainability, end goals for your organization should also be reliability and resiliency – nothing matters more than making sure you’re literally open for business. Renewables alone may not help you achieve that or be feasible given your operations and sites, so consider other solutions such as energy efficiency. Small steps like enrolling in a demand response program, where a few quick changes in your energy usage could bring in large amounts of revenue, or enrolling in a commodity contract paired with offsite solar to meet both cost and sustainability goals, are options already available.
How would you see the evolution a few years from now with regard to disruptions and transformations within the arena?
It’s not even in a few years, this is happening now. It’s the most amazing time in our industry, and we’re the one energy company embracing that by focusing on our customers and providing data-driven solutions. As electricity generation gets more local, the real action is where the customer meets the energy provider, and the future of that relationship is what excites us.
Indeed, the next era of the energy industry is itself a transformation. We’re helping transform the market, what customers believe an energy provider should be, what’s possible for businesses and more. This change goes beyond aspiration, it is a journey tied to tangible goals expressed to the market and our customers about what’s to come.